In 1933, before the breakwater was completed it was the practice of the tugs of Messina Bros., Coles and Searle (Pty) Ltd., to ferry passengers to and from the liners which were anchored offshore in Algoa Bay. The last tug for the day was at 4:30 pm and passengers who missed this tug then had no choice but to either spend the night on board ship or in the bustling little city of Port Elizabeth.
Out of this then came the opportunity for an enterprising Port Elizabethan by the name of Bredell who reasoned that he would be able to run an ‘after hours’ ferry service for passengers to the ships anchored in the Bay. He duly imported a vessel for this purpose but the Port Captain of the time refused to condone this venture. Port Captains were very aware of the South Easterly winds that sprung up without warning and which affected the lighter operations and offloading of cargo.
Bredell then disposed of the vessel, named Bess (Port Elizabeth’s nickname at the time was ‘Little Bess’), to a Mr Nilsen who ketch-rigged and sailed her to the Bay to use for fishing and pleasure. This made the Bess the first deep keel yacht to be regularly sailed in Algoa Bay.
For a long time a succession of Port Elizabeth Port Captains refused to allow yachting on the Bay. It is surmised that this was as they were conscious of the weather conditions and the fact that they were responsible for the safety of all souls and craft that sailed on the Bay. Unfortunately this also seriously retarded all deep sea yachting for many years.
Soon after the Second World War in 1945, Arthur Rogers-Jenkins built and launched a 25-footer named Melody. The new Port Captain, Capt. WC Still, in consultation with the System Manager of the SARH, agreed to permit Melody to sail on the Bay provided that it was done in daylight hours, not further than Roman Rock Bellbuoy and in sight of the Harbour Signal Station at all times. As far as yachtsmen were concerned this was the proverbial breaking of the ice.
The harbour authorities insisted on Melody having her PEY license numbers painted on her sides like the commercial fishing boats. However Roger-Jenkins refused to do this and every time he passed in or out of the harbour entrance, he hoisted signal flags covering his numbers and apparently this was acceptable to all concerned.
The next deep keel yacht to make her appearance in the harbour was Trickson II, a 30 square metre owned by Harold Kohler. After sailing in the Bay, Trickson II took part in the 1957 Lipton Cup in Cape Town and won. This conferred the right upon the winning club to hold the 1958 Lipton Cup in Algoa Bay. The sailing of this regatta proved beyond doubt that the sailing conditions in Algoa Bay were as good, if not better, than anywhere else. Trickson II was soon joined by Tintomara, owned by Graham Packer, and Sun Maid (also a Lipton Cup winner) owned by Paddy Goodall and 30 Square Metre races now became commonplace.
Melody in the meantime changed hands and sailed off to Cape Town with her new owner. Melody was replaced by Acushia, owned by Brian Frames and Kenneth Chowles, who sailed her to Port Elizabeth from Mossel Bay.
One of the many contributory factors to the initial growth of yachting in Algoa Bay came from the Naval Base which made facilities available to the Algoa Bay Yacht Club. Visiting yachtsmen all agreed that they were the finest to be found along the South African coast.
During the 1960’s more sophisticated materials and designs made yachting an attainable sport for many more people and resulted in phenomenal world wide growth in yachting.
The increasing number of participants and yachts in the sport of sailing brought with it an awareness for added safety measures and control. Co-operation between the Cruising Association of South Africa (CASA), the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the Harbour Authorities resulted in successful implementation of these measure and, in the process, earned the local yachting fraternity and enviable reputation.
Algoa Bay and Port Elizabeth over the years has proven to be a popular stopover for local and international yachtsmen as well as hosting a number of international world championship events with the majority of sailors concurring that Algoa Bay offers some of the most diverse, challenging and yet safe conditions along the entire African coastline in which to compete.
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